7.02.2009

ROTF Deleted Scenes

It's been almost a week since I went to see Michael Bay's epic Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It was everything one would expect from a Summer sequel. There were more characters, more action sequences, more explosions, and more Megan Fox. There were dozens of references to the old cartoons and comics sprinkled throughout that may have escaped some viewers. Opinions were definitely split, and for every person that complained, “”Transformers don't teleport!”, there was a diehard Transfan recalling the precedent of Skywarp or grinning at the mere mention of a Space Bridge.

All in all, it was two hours of action, humor, dizzying camera spins and big battling robots, and I got my money's worth. But some of you might be a little confused if you've also seen the film, or have read that the running time is closer to two and a half hours. I'm here to clear up that confusion. Bay, generous director that he is, has done the same thing he did in his previous Transformers film: included all the deleted scenes. Why wait for the DVD when you can get this special feature in theaters at no extra cost? Of course, if these scenes were “deleted” for a reason, the added incentive to buy the DVD later on is so you can skip over that half hour or so of unnecessary footage dragging the film down and appreciate it in its purest streamlined form.

There be SPOILERS ahead, as I delve more specifically into some of these scenes and elements. Proceed with caution from this point on.

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1) Mudflap and Skids:
Let's get these guys out of the way first, shall we? There has been some controversy regarding the “ghetto speak” of these heroic twins, who start out as halves of an ice cream truck before getting individual car alternate modes. Both look quite goofy and one sports a gold tooth, and the characters have elicited cries of racism from some critics. I think there's a distinction to be made between racism and stereotyping, since the former carries with it some intentional malice while the latter can range from ignorance to good-natured ribbing, depending on the context and author. It's also important to note that these characters are robots, and not African American human youths. If anything, they're wannabes, and Eminem is a more likely target of satire. Like the other alien robots of their race, they learned how to speak from the internet, making them not all that different than a robot who talks like he's from Brooklyn, or one with a Scottish accent, or one that sounds like a Western hero. More prominent than the issue of whether or not they're caricatures of a stereotype is the fact that they're annoying, bickering, unnecessary comic relief characters like Jar Jar Binks that steal valuable screen time from the other new robots introduced in the film, as well as the returning ones. By the time they started doing something cool and useful, I was beyond caring because I cringed every time they activated their vocal processors. I'm glad they have so many deleted scenes I can skip over to see Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Sideswipe and others kick ass.

2) Sam's college roommate:
I'm going to make a bold statement and say that Shia LaBeouf is the Michael J. Fox of his generation, cool in a dorky kind of way. He does a good job of juggling a normal life with the extraterrestrial perils of an intergalactic civil war and the terrestrial perils of parents that we can all relate to. There's enough humor with his folks, especially his mom who steals the show in one particular scene, that more isn't needed. The rest of the film should be action and drama. But besides those aforementioned twins, perhaps misguidedly put into a PG-13 film “for the kids”, they decide to give Sam a college roommate, who fills the role of likable latino filled by Amaury Nolasco(whose character either was killed or badly wounded by Scorponok in the first film; I honestly couldn't tell). Of course “Leo” doesn't start out all that likable, as the website he's running out of their dormroom threatens to expose the existence of the Transformers to the general population, beyond the individual cities who may have already witnessed the presence of robots first hand. He drags Sam to his first party where Sam meets an (evil) girl that threatens his relationship with Megan Fox's Mikaela. This is all well and good until Leo gets dragged along into the main plot during the slowest portion of the film, and spends the remainder of the time wide-eyed and freaking out, or playing off yet another unnecessary character I'll address in a bit. He serves some purpose in moving the story along, but it could have been done with a lot less screen time. Even a stun gun doesn't keep him away for that long.

3) Jetfire:
Why would I consider Jetfire's scenes ones that should have been left on the cutting room floor? As a Macross jet, he was certainly one of the cooler toys from the original line, and in the film he appears as an SR-71 Blackbird, also a cool jet. They even stayed true to his origins as a Decepticon before switching sides. And later in the film, he teams up with Optimus Prime in a nod to one of the more recent animated series. As cool as all this sounds, they decided to portray him as elderly, walking with a cane and talking in a grumpy and addled Scottish accent. And they threw in a flatulence/parachute joke at no extra charge. Ultimately, he still comes off as a likable character and crucial to the plot, but if they had to portray him the way they did I wish they could have toned him down a bit, maybe cut a few of the jokes.

4) Anything with John Turturro:
I generally like Turturro, especially when he works with the Coens, but for some reason I can't stand him in these movies. His Agent Simmons is just too over the top and cartoonish compared to those around him. In Revenge of the Fallen, he's living in disgrace, working in his mom's butcher shop after losing his previous job and government clearance. But he too runs a web site, which is how Leo leads Sam and Michaela to him, and he saved a lot of his records, which is how he leads the gang to Jetfire. On paper it all makes sense, but in the film it seems like one step too many and takes too long after an hour or so of great action sequences. Even with Simmons' character as the link to Jetfire, I don't think we needed another shot of Turturro in his underwear, especially far less of it. We didn't need a scene with the modern Oompa Loompa and Simmons getting away with a Falafal crack because his character is 1/64th Middle Eastern, or something. He gets to grandstand and make big gestures that amount to nothing, until his former government ties pay off with an impressive rail gun sequence. But by then, we've already had a shot of him under Devastator's steel (wrecking) balls, and the less said about that, the better.

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For me, the good outweighed the bad, and I haven't even spoiled the really cool scenes and references. But I can understand why the bad ruined the film for a lot of people, and I can't understand why Bay can't seem to part with certain scenes. This was a film that actually gave us a likable version of Wheelie, by changing him from a rhyming teenager to a slick Brooklyn gangster more akin vocally to Rattrap. Others might have had a different reaction and filed his character under (should have been) deleted, as they might with the Decepticon disguised as a college girl. Even that didn't bother me since Beast Wars already established precedent for technorganics, and this is after all the same movie season that brought us a new Terminator(which I liked a lot less than ROTF).

I for one can't wait to get my DVD in a few months and skip or fast forward some of the above. I gave the theatrical version four stars, but I bet I'd give five to the MCF cut....

6 Comments:

Blogger TheWriteJerry said...

What about the dog humping and leg humping? Surely those are deleted scenes!

7/02/2009 7:02 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

Yeah, the dogs were a little over the top...we got the establishing shot of them running to see they still had the old one and had gotten a new one; didn't need a follow up domination scene on the couch.

As for the leg...I kind of thought that was funny and it didn't bother me as much. She had been carrying him around the way some women carry little dogs in their purse. Did the gesture make any sense whatsoever for a machine? Probably not, but then they all did just emulate what Earth lifeforms do. Maybe he saw the dogs back at the house and that's where he observed that behavior. Which makes it a callback and justifies the other scene. Without the scene I didn't like it might make less sense.

Let's call the leg scene an alternate take. In a cut without the dogs, maybe he finds some other way to express gratitude/loyalty, like he just starts kissing the back of her hand or something.

7/02/2009 7:52 AM  
Blogger Douglas said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/02/2009 2:02 PM  
Blogger FawnDoo said...

The leg-humping wasn't all that amusing, it has to be said. I just put it (and things like the twins' accents) down to the fact that Transformers are a race of mimics. They come to a planet, adopt a local form and absorb information to emulate local customs, language etc. They probably just scan through the information available until they find a form of speech that they like, and go with that. They're like the Iotians in the classic Trek episode "A piece of the action" - they can't help themselves, when they find out something they mimic it.

Or, the film was a largely enjoyable summer no-brainer, with a few really weak concepts in there. Take your pick. :-)

Have to say though, Jetfire didn't have a Scottish accent - he spoke with an English accent. The voice actor, Mark Ryan, is from Doncaster in the north of England. Not sure if that helps redeem him in your eyes though, MCF.

7/02/2009 2:03 PM  
Anonymous MCF said...

I had no problem with the accent, I think it was just his portrayal as an absentminded old 'bot with a cane. Like if he was Alpha Trion or some other established old character it wouldn't have bothered me as much. But he had such a cool alt mode in this film and historically; it seemed a waste.

7/02/2009 2:06 PM  
Blogger FawnDoo said...

I didn't think you had a problem with the accent as such, I just didn't want you to run the risk of being all confused if you choose to visit Scotland one day! :-) I agree that the name is a bit of an odd fit for the character, especially as the movie characters haven't deviated too far from the established "types" in previous cartoons. I think Kup would have been a better fit - an old, forgetful warrior who can still fight when he needs to. When I saw that one of the pictures Simmons had was of an old automobile I hoped that we might be seeing a Kup appearance, but alas no, we got Jetfire. Or Jetfoire, if you go by his accent. ;-)

7/03/2009 4:02 PM  

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